Norm Solomon, professor of management and former dean at Fairfield University's Charles F. Dolan School of Business, and Grant O’Neill, dean of international and accreditation at Curtin Business School, discuss developing business degree programs on multi-country campuses.
What cultural factors should business schools consider in establishing multicountry programs?
Grant O'Neill: [00:14] Cultural factors obviously are really important when you're looking at developing campuses offshore. Aside from the obvious, which are learning differences, and you really need to factor that in, we are now focusing in Australia, as in the U.S. and Europe, on flipped classrooms and distributed learning and utilizing technology.
[00:33] In many countries, in many cultures, this is quite alien. You need to recognize the challenges and the differences, and support the students and support faculty offshore to really get up to speed on different learning pedagogies and different learning styles. That's critically important.
[00:51] In terms of cultural differences then understanding different value sets, understanding how ethical practices may be variable, and different as a result of cultural differences. Ensuring that your curriculum and the learning experiences and the development opportunities that we provide allow for that difference.
[01:09] So, sure they get an Australian or U.S. education which is fantastic, but we also hope them to really apply that to a local context.
Norm Solomon: [01:18] The cultural differences are dealt with by our universities in different ways. If you're in the United States, you have a corrupt practices act … you have things you can talk about that apply across the world for U.S. firms.
[01:32] For a school like Curtin, which has campuses in Singapore, in Malaysia, in Mauritius, the institutional aspects of how business is done are different.
[01:45] What makes the program that Curtin has so unique is that, although it has an Australian framework, the instructors are also very well versed if they’re offshore on the business practices in Singapore, in Malaysia, in Mauritius, and they're able to bring that knowledge to bare because conceptions of what's appropriate are going to vary from country to country.
[02:12] In terms of cultural factors and accreditation, one of the remarkable things about the AACSB standard, especially the 2013 standards, is that they really are scalable to schools of different size, and they're scalable to schools in different countries. I, myself, I've done either visits or mentored schools in North America, in Latin America, in the Middle East, in Europe, and Australia.
[02:37] Even though each of those locations have very different cultural mindsets, the standards are adaptable enough to be able to take the concept of what is rigorous business education and have it apply in that location, which is a really a tribute to all the work that went in to the 2013 standards. In my experience, they truly are international.
O’Neill: [03:02] Ensuring standards’ alignment across multiple locations is obviously a big challenge, but making everything you do business as usual—building into your systems and processes from day one, a recognition of where you want to be in terms of the standard—so it just is everyday practice.
[03:21] Good communication, regular communication and across locations, ensuring that people understand their roles and responsibilities—these are things that are absolutely fundamental when you're talking about large distances and potentially different time zones.
[03:34] For me, its good systems, good processes, good communication, and really being very clear about why the standards are so beneficial so people buy in, and getting that buy-in is really fundamental.
Solomon: [03:47] What stood out for me about Curtin's approach is that when we visit a campus, the campus in Singapore or Malaysia, everybody knew the standards, they knew why the school was going for accreditation, they were supportive of it.
[03:59] Even the students understood it, and certainly the faculty understood it. This is something they wanted to do. They weren't being pulled into it by an out-of-sight, out-of-mind central administration. That was really critical to the success.
[04:14] It would be critical to any school success and accreditation that the faculty and the people who do the work on the ground really understand, appreciate it, and say “this is something we want to do, it's important.”
Filmed September 2016 on site at the Annual Accreditation Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.